Fox and Hounds

FOX AND HOUNDS

This is the best game to start learning board games.  It is simple and yet illustrates the basic principles of game playing. Players take turns to move. The players have opposing objectives – the fox must reach the other end of the board and the hounds combine to prevent this.

Diagram 1 (Starting Position)

Play with draughts pieces or counters – or, if none are available, use pawns (Diagram 1). All pieces move one square diagonally on the dark squares. The lone fox (white) goes first and can move forwards or backwards whereas the hounds can only move forwards (Diagram 2 illustrates).

Diagram 2 (Piece moves)


The fox wins by reaching the opposite side. The hounds win by blocking the fox so it cannot move. There are no captures or jumping. The game cannot be drawn.

With “best play”, the hounds should win. The key idea is to keep the hounds in formation as they zigzag up the board according to the board pattern. No gap should be left for the fox to escape through.

Diagram 3 (Keep Formation)

In Diagram 3, black has just played h6-g5 to maintain formation. Note that if black had played f6-g5 instead (Diagram 4), then the fox would be able to break through with f4-e5 and beyond.

Diagram 4 (The fox breaks through)

Playing systematically leads to consistent results for the hounds. A typical winning position for the hounds is shown in Diagram 5. The fox is pressed against the side and has no more moves.

Diagram 5 (The hounds have won)


The best chance for the fox is to disrupt the formation and force the opponent to decide which piece to play out of sequence. The fox can only win if black makes a mistake.

Diagram 6 (Force Black to make choices)

In diagram 6, the fox has inserted itself into the middle of the formation. Black must avoid the mistaken moves c5-b4 or g5-h4 because the fox would be able to penetrate the barrier. Active play puts more pressure on opponent who is more likely to make a mistake.

Variations

  • The players should reverse roles after each game to appreciate the game from the other side.
  • Try changing whether the fox goes first or second. Does it make any difference to the outcome?